This past February I became the proud owner of a yellow lab pup ("Sue") from Deep Run Farm. In just a few days she will have her first birthday.
This is the story about not just her first hunt, but the first time she ever retrieved a downed bird in the wild.
To preface, I am not a professional trainer, and Sue has never received professional training of any kind. This dog is the first that I have trained myself, and I did it using various books, DVDs, and advice from this Forum. And, although these were thorough, I assure you, none of them were involved with teaching this dog what I am about to describe. (Not sure you can teach this...)
About a month ago, I brought Sue to Caddo Lake, in northeast Texas for her first duck hunt. Notably, Caddo (like many good water fowling lakes) has a lot of aquatic vegetation growing above and below the surface of the water. As many of you probably know, there is a longstanding debate among hunters as to whether injured ducks dive down and latch on to such plants to commit suicide, or whether they merely become entangled and drown. Either way, the instances of injured ducks diving and then disappearing are much more prevalent in Caddo than in most other places I hunt. While this often presents a big problem for many hunters, for me--not so much. And here's why:
About ten minutes after getting Sue all set up for her first hunt, we saw our first action of the day which yielded a fine specimen of a woody. The downed duck we thought to be dead turned out to be injured, and as Sue approached it, sure enough, the bird dove into the brown, murky depths. When it didn’t resurface after a while, we assumed it was gone for good, and tried calling the dog back to the blind. She refused, and then she did something amazing.
I'm guessing she caught its scent from beneath the water, and with her head cocked as high as she could get it above the water, she swam next to a lily patch (about five feet from where we saw the duck go under), then she dove too! And, I am not talking about simply sticking her head a few inches underwater--she went down into the water, tail and all. After disappearing beneath the surface for about 3-4 seconds, I'll be damned if she didn't come up with that bird in her mouth!
Even our guide couldn’t believe it. He said he’d been guiding duck hunts for 25 years and he’d never seen anything like it. I have no idea whether it’s commonplace for a dog to retrieve in such a way—I too had certainly never seen it done, or even read about how to teach it.
Notwithstanding, even if it is something these dogs do regularly, I still think it was pretty remarkable that she pulled it off with her very first attempt at a wild bird.
Pictured: The illusive bird, its persistent pursuer, and her proud owner
...Any other good stories about puppy's first hunt?